How to Select the Right Paralegal Training Program near Hanceville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Hanceville AL and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by searching for schools within commuting range of their Hanceville residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into account also. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Hanceville AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Hanceville AL is by earning a certificate, which can involve just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected certifying organizations in the profession are:
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations
- American Alliance of Paralegals
- National Association of Legal Assistants
- National Association for Legal Professionals
By graduating with a paralegal degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Hanceville AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important factors to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Hanceville AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Hanceville AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Hanceville AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ from state to state, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those colleges that are within the Hanceville AL area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Hanceville AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Hanceville AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you select makes available that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more popular and can be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Hanceville AL?
If you live near Hanceville Alabama or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Founded in Blount County, Hanceville was incorporated in May 1879. At the time of Cullman County's creation in 1877, half of Hanceville resided in each county. In 1885, county boundaries were redrawn and all of Hanceville was placed within Blount County. In 1901, county boundaries were redrawn again and this time all of the town was placed within Cullman County, for which it has remained.
Hanceville is located in southeastern Cullman County at 34°3′48″N 86°45′39″W / 34.06333°N 86.76083°W / 34.06333; -86.76083 (34.063463, -86.760908).U.S. Route 31 passes through the city, leading north 9 miles (14 km) to Cullman, the county seat, and south 14 miles (23 km) to Smoke Rise.
As of the census of 2000, there were 2,951 people, 1,167 households, and 710 families residing in the city. The population density was 718.6 people per square mile (277.2/km²). There were 1,323 housing units at an average density of 322.2 per square mile (124.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 93.09% White, 4.61% Black or African American, 0.61% Native American, 0.07% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.75% from other races, and 0.85% from two or more races. 2.30% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Paralegal Associate Degree Hanceville AL
Choosing the ideal paralegal studies degree program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Paralegal Associate Degree. But as we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Hanceville residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Hanceville AL.
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